Coming in to the winter of 2020 Chehalis River Mutual Aid Network started serving meals in Zelasko Park and began to form relationships with many of the people experiencing homelessness in our town. We learned how inadequate the services offered were in reality and not on paper. We learned that the shelters in town treated people like children, placing restrictions on people heavy enough that many decided to avoid them altogether. We learned the ins and outs of the cold weather shelter and TASL. One need has shown itself time and time again, and that is the need for a real shelter location.
For more background on this issue read our past coverage of the shelter proposed by Chaplains on the Harbor. Grays Harbor commissioners have been holding this project up ever since it came up for approval. Their most recent meeting on Tuesday April 20 involved no action on the part of two of the commissioners. This author was not in attendance, but one member of Chehalis River Mutual Aid Network did attend and gave this report back:
Grays Harbor Commissioners met on Tuesday 4/20 and on the agenda to discuss was the Chaplains on the Harbor bid for a 44 bed Shelter for Aberdeen. However, commissioners Jill Warren and Kevin Pine through their non action, created NO progress for our community members sleeping on the streets. Instead Kevin shared that “Shelters don’t work.” Which is really confusing because the urgent need & solution is pretty simple. Humans sleeping on concrete. A shelter takes them up off the ground & gives them safety. Kevin, how does that “not work”? Leaving OUR people on the streets is a better option? Jill? Seriously… 44 beds that’s it. That would cover a very small amount of what is actually needed yet silence is what you had to give us all?
One commissioner showed up & spoke up on behalf of PUBLIC SAFETY & THE PEOPLE which was appreciated by many. A statement was read into the public record signed by 124 of “Aberdeen’s finest”. It wasn’t a surprise that none of their concerns were the health, safety or well-being of the population dying on our streets but instead they were focused on money and retaliation. It’s also not a surprise that their narrative fits Jill’s and Kevin’s. You know Jim Walsh, Jill, Kevin, same thing. When the City & it’s citizens support something fully, a qualified organization meets the requirements to handle it, the state hands over 1.1 Million dollars to fund it and still these two took no action. That’s not only reckless and inhumane, it shows as clear as day the people they are serving and it sure as shit is not the population of Grays Harbor.
When we have people with this control putting politics above whether people live or die, it’s a huge issue, a life and death issue. We can’t be quiet about the inhumane treatment of our neighbors. This is our home, all of us together. When someone is hungry, you add another seat at the table. You don’t kick them while they are starving and make them watch you eat.
This inaction on the part of the commissioners raises quite a few new hurdles for the project going forward. One hurdle is clearly funding, those behind the proposed shelter will undoubtedly start looking at legal recourse as well as alternative funding options and will update us as news comes in. Our group is far more limited in its funding options, but the city does own many plots of vacant or otherwise unproductive land, including the original river side property. A second hurdle is the rising threat of far right fascists and their escalating threatening and harassment of the unhoused and their advocates. A third hurdle is the contingent that has arisen in opposition to the unhoused population. These people are on an escalating trajectory of violence, including documenting and publicizing known camp locations, drive by harassment of unhoused people, threats and harassment of folks at the needle exchange, and now formations of a “neighborhood watch”. 124 of them signed onto a letter to be read into the record at the meeting as follows with notes by this author in red.
Dear Commissioners Pine, Raines, and Warne,
With respect to the amount of money being requested (no one is requesting any money, the county requested a proposal and just happened to receive these funds earmarked for this very purpose) and/or allocated for the homeless issue and associated shelter and housing projects, we, the undersigned, do hereby respectfully request that a financial audit be performed between CCAP, Grays Harbor County Public Health and the Housing Program, as well as any other relevant parties and recipients of grant funds. (CCAP has nothing to do with this project and they don’t even mention Chaplains on the Harbor)
We ask that the following inquiries be addressed:
Which individuals and/or entities are making the decision on what grants to apply for (the funding for this comes from the federal CARES Act, through WA state Dept of Commerce, and approved by the county, this is what this money is for) and what are the qualifications for and the process of selecting which individuals and groups are “housing stakeholders”? (this is two different questions) (housing stakeholders refers to individuals experiencing homelessness, housing providers, landlords, local government, law enforcement, faith communities, schools, behavioral health, and social service providers. anyone who has a stake in the housing needs of the area)
What process and/or guidelines are in place to prevent conflicts of interest between “housing stakeholders”, public housing entities, county leadership, and grant recipients? (for a detailed look at the processes that go on when planning projects like this check out this easily Googleable document from the county)
Who decides contractor qualifications for grant funding recipients? (these are long standing processes that State representatives and Senators should probably be aware of)
Is it appropriate for Grays Harbor County leadership to enter into ANY agreement with any kind of entity that has a history of suing parties involved? (why on earth would that matter? This is an organization that has been advocating for these issues for a long time and that often includes suing governments who don’t care about their residents)
What is the oversight and reporting process on how money is to be, and ultimately, how it is spent and by whom? (this is all likely to be determined at the next step in the process being held up by the commission, the actual contract, budgeting, staffing, etc.)
We appreciate your prompt response on this matter.
(these folks seem to think this is the wild west where no laws apply, no records will be kept, and the nightmarish bureaucracy of paperwork, documentation, and data collection typical of government won’t apply…eye roll forever)
State Senator Jeff Wilson
Kacey Ann Morrison Randall Ainsworth
State Representative Jim Walsh
Zach Morrison Wayne Storlie Roger Nedrow
Patty Thomas Bonnie Lynn Fleck Tom Little
Debi Pieraccini Debbie Hodgkin Robbin Emery-Welcome
Carol Tuhkanen Robert LaCount Wiley Welcome
Steve Heywood Becky Rider James Appling
The Warren Family Randy Gibson Randy Paling
Bryan Gullickson Daniel Rider Jr. Daniel McBride
Joann Burns Theodore Peckler Denise Baumgardner
Jen Boone Dawn Peckler Kyle Dahlstrom
Chris Yeager Brad Eilers Bruno Pieraccini
Traci Johnson Cricket Ruiz Eric W. Young Sr.
Alicia Healy Kristi Howard Cynde Roberts
Aleta Fuhrer Kristine Lowder Jamie MacKinnon Walsh
Sheryl Sjogren Chris Lowder Don Sucher
Laurie Bremer Patrick Linares Steve Kerley
Rodney Bremer Mel Bennett Gregg Peterson
Ember Raney Teresa Obino Thomas Clark
Steven Smith Jr. Barbara Morrison Dawn Ann Gafford
Cindy Wakefield Vicki Humbyrd Gina Foshaug-Goodman
Holly Shuck Michelle McFeely Mark McFeely
Karen Stutesman Sheldon Swope Angela Cunningham
Donna Wright Susan McDaniel Katy Albrecht
Patrick McDaniel DeElaina Moore Rashelle Gallegos
Clayton Peterson Mark Irwin Sharon Nylander
Rob Hoefer Diana Hoefer Larry Cowles
Erin Knutson Troy Green Heidi Lopez
Brenda House Nikki Gaddis Wes Johnson II
Judy Parfitt Gary Parfitt Cindy Vessey
Douglas Pierce William Clark Dorothy Gerchak
Paul Barrow Harvey Engler Tracy Sannes
Chris Smith Lisa Donohoe Randy Donohoe
Jan Walberg Adam Hoxit Mark Maynard
Amy Clark Tim Eaton Pete Kearney
Terry Kost Elaine Lutz Cecile Shillinger
Paul Mirante Jeanne Everett Melody Fletcher
Betty Lathers Christy King Candy Cozzutto
Nancy Barnett Gary Barnett Neil King
Clarence French Matti Tuhkanen DBA King Built Homes LLC
Beth Judd Daniel Wareham Lorrie Pierce
Ray Gregson Dick Murchy Gerri Specker
Carolyn Barker Fred Feuerstein Henry Sherman Family
Debi Wyrick-Martin Linda Webb Barbara Darrin
Milissa Stott Brandon Stott Shane Zaborac
To be clear, this is not a project ran in any way by this network, but we do support this population of people and in turn we support this project and the general work of Rev Sarah Monroe and Chaplains on the Harbor. That said, we are an autonomous network capable of operating in spaces and ways that institutions and non-profits are not. We must be willing to use this fact to our advantage.
Now is the time to leverage our shared values of autonomous direct action and self-determination into creating a community of resistance to state and right wing violence. We cannot allow the state to simply refuse the very ability to survive from us. We can no longer rely on these institutions to bring about the world we desire, we must take this into our own hands and stop asking for permission. We will continue to work with our friends on the streets, organizing to make people more safe and secure. We must put forth a united front against the rise of fascism with all those willing to work with us to this end.
If we do not do something, and soon those experiencing homelessness in this town face increasing threats and harassment at the hands of the police, as well as non-state fascists, and the run of the mill NIMBYs. Each section here needs the others, supports the others, and complements the others. The Karens, Kellies, and Kaceys of the world, the NIMBYs (not in my backyard) put a pretty mask on the agenda while making public appearances and excursion into faux community clean up actions. The fascists, and these two overlap quite a bit, go out and actually harass or attack the people being dehumanized by the NIMBYs. They use the information obtained by the NIMBY scouts to target this campaign of terror. The police, who have the most interactions with and knowledge of the people being targeted can provide this information to the other sections if its not widely known. This allows for more varied and consistent harassment by non state actors, filling in the gaps of what an on duty officer can’t always get away with. The police do their fair share of terrorizing though, make no mistake. Our friends outside often describe the disregard and cruelty shown to them by law enforcement.
These factors and more contribute to the growing criminalization of the unhoused, the poor, the neuro-diverse, the transient, and the addicted. All groups with a long and particularly telling history of criminalization, dehumanization, and genocide. All groups that still, unlike Jewish people or LGBTQIAX+ people, are able to be fully dehumanized without such a person being called an out and out bigot. Groups that don’t enjoy the status of a protected class or group in terms of discrimination guidelines either.
The case of Martin v. City of Boise found that the City of Boise’s enforcement of ordinances prohibiting camping, sleeping, or lying in public violated the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment if an individual does not have a meaningful alternative (such as space in a shelter or a legal place to camp). We discussed in our previous article on SOAP’s incursions into people’s private homes, that the courts have rules that even if your home is a tent, you still enjoy the same rights to privacy anyone else does.